Very few filmmakers can do bloody redemption like South Korean cinema, although the Pang Bros do a cracking job, and the 2014 feature No Tears for the Dead is the perfect example of an almost soap opera style thriller/drama where a hitman tries to make amends for an accidental killing at the very start of the film.
Written and directed by Jeong-beom Lee, it is his third film, and starring The Warrior’s Way Gong-Don Jang, Min-Hee Kim (Hellcats, Helpless) and Brian Tee (Jurassic World, The Wolverine) No Tears for the Dead follows the journey of Gon, an American trained Korean hitman who works for a Triad organization.
At the start of the film, a group of gangsters are in the back room of a casino, or club, and a little Korean girls sits on her own with an origami stork on the table in front of her. She is listening to a singer. Back n the room, a man forces his way in and begins killing everyone with a silenced pistol. As he finishes up there is a noise at the room’s exit. The man fires blindly though the closed door and when he opens it, an origami bird is on the floor and the little girl has been shot through the chest.
Later, the Triad boss he works for tells the hitman, Gon, to kill the child’s mother once they retrieve a file her deceased husband sent her via an email. Gon, (Gong-Don Jang) is overcome with guilt and remorse at his inadvertent murder of an innocent. The gang have to break into his house to find him and once there they discover he has drunk himself into a stupor and Gon has passed out covered in vomit.
Gon is sent to Korea, a country he has not been to since he and his mother left years ago. The hitman’s mother tried to desert him in America and later kills herself. The hitman goes to the country of his birth and as he attempts to recover the file; he breaks into Mo-Kyoeng’s (played by Min-Hee Kim) house, he is surrounded by the essence of little Yumi, the girl he killed earlier. The child’s growth chart, art work from her school and, because Gon has cloned the mother’s cell phone, he sees pictures and videos of the dead girl.
When the Korean mob boss, who works for the Triads, learns that Mo-Kyeong has accessed the file, Gon is ordered to kill the grieving mother. Entering her house, he finds the woman unconscious on her couch having taken several bottles of pills. He fires his gun at the arm of the settee, over her head, and calls 911.
When Mo-Kyeong is in the hospital, a group of assassins, colleagues of Gon, are hired to kill them both. His old friend and mentor Chaoz (Lee) heads up the deadly gang and it becomes a battle of wits, bullets, blood and betrayal as Gon tries to make up for murdering the woman’s daughter by saving her life. My-Yeong must also fight and she almost loses to the killers more than once.
While this could be seen as a sort of “pot boiler” drama set around a hitman, the film is not too dissimilar from the 1998 Chinese film The Replacement Killers with Yun-Fat Chow and Mira Sorvino or even the Pang Bros 2000 film Bangkok Dangerous.
*On a sidenote, the latter film was remade with Nicolas Cage in 2008; avoid this shabby and abysmal film at all costs.*
There are prolonged shootouts with a variety of weapons, some brilliantly choreographed fights between Gon and the bad guys and a fair few good twists and turns to the plot. Add in some great little ironic events and a few touching moments of backstory and No Tears for the Dead becomes a 5 out of 5 star film.
Partially subtitled; with the Chinese gangsters and Gon conversing in English throughout the film, this South Korean film cracks on at a rapid pace and makes the run time of just under two hours feel much shorter. As this is just Jeong-beom Lee’s third film keep an eye on this filmmaker and expect to see much more of his work. Do not miss this one.